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Schizophrenia is a mental disorder marked by the loss of contact with reality. Delusions, hallucinations, irregular thinking or emotions are the usual symptoms. About one hundred years ago schizophrenia was first recognized as a mental disorder and researchers have been searching for a cure since. The exact cause of schizophrenia is still unknown and scientists are certain that schizophrenia has more than one cause. Scientists have developed dozens of theories to explain what causes this disease, but researchers are focusing on three leading theories. The Genetic Theory argues that schizophrenia is caused by traits in a person's genetic makeup.
As we all know, a person has twenty-three pairs of chromosomes. Each pair contains one chromosome from each parent. In corresponding locations of each chromosome the genes for specific traits are located. If there are mutations or if there is the presence of an extra chromosome, genetic disorders occur.
For example, Down Syndrome is caused by the presence of an extra 21 st chromosome. It is believed that problems with the genetic make up can cause schizophrenia (Encarta 96). In an attempt to prove this theory scientists study identical twins. Due to the fact that identical twins have the exact genetic make up researchers will be able to determine if heredity is the main cause of schizophrenia. However, evidence seems to disprove this theory. This is because on some occasions both identical twins are schizophrenics and other times only one is inflicted.
To defend the theory, it should be noted that this research is difficult and complicated. Identical twins are relatively rare, especially twins who are both diagnosed with schizophrenia. Further defending the theory, studies have shown that children with one parent diagnosed with schizophrenia have a ten percent chance of suffering from schizophrenia. When both parents are schizophrenic their risk raises to about fifty percent (468 Myers). The Biochemical theory is built mainly on stress that effects human behavior. However, most researchers agree that stress alone cannot be the main cause of schizophrenia.
Most researchers agree that stress can trigger or worsen the symptoms when the illness is already present. Other researchers focus on drug abuse. Like stress, certain drugs such as amphetamines can make psychotic symptoms worse if a person already has schizophrenia. Also, amphetamines and other drugs cause an increase in dopamine. Brains of schizophrenics were found to contain an excess of receptors for dopamine (468 Myers). In one particular experiment, researchers injected animals with amphetamines, which causes an increase of dopamine in the brain.
Following the injection, the animals exhibit the same behavior as humans who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, such as standing still for long periods of time or continuously pacing. Nerve cells have an effect on schizophrenics as well. When something acts upon one of our senses, electrical impulses are sent to the brain. These impulses allow us to feel pain, smell, and also manage our thought processes. In our body we have a complex nerve system. For example, there is no one single nerve that travels from our feet to our brain.
Therefore, in order for information to be sent to the brain the nerves must interact with each other. Because the system is so complex it is possible for the signal to get mixed up. When this happens, our brain may misinterpret the signal or may not receive it at all. If the signal does get mixed up on the way to the brain the make up of the impulse can undergo a chemical change resulting in abnormal thought processes and abnormal behavior (Smith). The Bio-Psycho-Social Theory combines all of the previous theories. Some researchers believe that biochemical abnormalities are a contributing factor but that other events must also occur.
They suggest that environmental and social problems have to be considered along with biological problems. Social scientists believe that no chemical factors are involved, instead they believe "mental disorders are described as a consequence of human motivations, drives, and unconscious forces" (Smith). These scientists suggest that people become overloaded with stress, information, and stimulation. When this happens they lose their ability to cope with the anxiety which accompanies stress. Instead of dealing with their problems they seek peace in their own world. For example, it is common for individuals to return to "happy times" in their life such as infancy and they begin to act like a child.
Scientists have asked if there is a particular nationality that suffers more than any other. Studies have been done in Ireland and it appears that one in every twenty-five people show signs of schizophrenia, opposed to one in every hundred in the United States. E. Fuller Torrey has spent a great deal of time researching a number of schizophrenics in Ireland. After he made his findings public other scientists began asking questions as to why the Irish are suffering so badly. The basis of their research has focused around their diet, mainly potatoes.
If potatoes are exposed to too much sunlight they produce an alkaloid called solange. Solanine has the ability to induce intestinal problems and psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations. Another possibility, is the amount of insecticides the Irish consume from the potato. At planting time farmers use high amounts of chemicals on their potatoes to protect them from insects. When an insect ingests the chemicals they are easily killed because the chemicals interfere with the normal functioning of the nervous system by disrupting the transmission of nerve impulses. If large doses of these chemicals have the same affect on humans as they do on insects this could answer the Irish dilemma.
Despite all these theories, it is quite evident that the cause of schizophrenia is still a mystery. It also seems clear that this disease is not caused by any one factor. As of now, researchers are leaning toward the Biochemical theory. The brain is the most complex organ in the human body and an imbalance of the brain's chemical system has been suspected as the main cause of schizophrenia for a long time.
The area of the brain thought to be affected in most cases of schizophrenia is the limbic system. This is the area of the brain that acts like a gate for incoming stimuli or messages. In any case, it appears that all schizophrenics have some sort of abnormal chemicals that are not found in healthy people. Schizophrenia is a complicated and difficult disease. It is hard to diagnose mental disorders because there are no physical indications. In the case of schizophrenia, a person can be mistaken for a shy child or person.
The early signs of schizophrenia are withdrawal and being scared of society. Schizophrenics often believe that someone is out to get them and have a great deal of suspicion. Another common symptom is hallucinations. Hallucinations cause the affected person to imagine hearing things or seeing things. Schizophrenics are usually detached from reality. They are not in touch with their surroundings.
Besides recognizing these symptoms, schizophrenia can be diagnosed by the Rorschach, better known as inkblots, and other such tests. These inkblots are used worldwide and doctors have analyzed normal and abnormal answers. By listening to answers a doctor can determine what a common answer from a schizophrenic is. A normal person's answer would be something ordinary. A person suffering from schizophrenia would see something weird that is not analogous to a normal person's answer. The modern day treatment for schizophrenia has many aspects.
It involves primarily medicine, and electro convulsive therapy. The medications most commonly used are; anti-psychotics which are used to help calm agitation, diminish destructive behavior and hallucinations and may help correct disturbed thought processes. Secondly are anti-depressants, which normally slow acting drugs but if no improvement occurs within three weeks, they may not be effective at all. Thirdly, are mood normalizers such as lithium carbonate used in manic depressive states to help stabilize mood swings, which are part of the condition. Electro-convulsive therapy is the application of electrical currents to the brain.
It is mainly used for patients suffering from extreme depressions who are suicidal and who seem unable to shake the depression under any circumstances. Schizophrenia effects approximately 2 % of the American population. Researchers have noticed that the number of schizophrenics is slowly rising from that of the 18 th century. Even though there are many theories, the exact cause has not been determined. I believe it is caused by a number of psychological, environmental, and biological problems and is not caused by one individual abnormality. Furthermore, the cures of schizophrenics are small, and take long periods of time to fully heal a person.
The future might hold simple and fast cures. Bibliography:
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Research essay sample on Electro Convulsive Therapy Diagnosed With Schizophrenia